Lawyers | Poets | Poetry

Professor James R. Elkins
College of Law
:: West Virginia University

Thinking about Poetry

Preface: "I don't know how poetry knows. What it knows I also cannot say, though I have heard poetry say it . . . . That it knows seems to me only a kind of tautology poorly phrased. I would rather say that poetry is one among the many forms of knowing, and maybe it is knowing in the purest form we know. I would rather say that knowing freed from the agenda of possession and control—knowing in the sense of stepping in tune with being, hearing and echoing the music and heartbeat of being—is what we mean by poetry."

—Robert Bringhurst, "Everywhere Being Is Dancing, Knowing Is Known," in Robert Bringhurst, Everywhere Being is Dancing: Twenty Pieces of Thinking 15-32, at 15 (Gaspereau Press, 2007)


Pamela Spiro Wagner, "How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual"

Bill Zavatsky, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Poetry" [on-line text] [an earlier version of the essay appeared in Bill Zavatsky & Ron Padgett (eds.), The Whole Word Catalogue 2 (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1976, 1999)]

Poems on Poetry

Ars Poetica (Archibald MacLeish)

Of Modern Poetry (Wallace Stevens)

A High-Toned Old Christian Woman (Wallace Stevens)

Poetry is a Destructive Force (Wallace Stevens)

Poetry is a Destructive Force (Wallace Stevens)

?Poetry (Pablo Neruda)

Poet's Obligation (Pablo Neruda)

Young Poets (Nicanor Parra) (trans. by Miller Williams)

Why I Am a Poet (Donald Crasswell)

Your Poem, Man . . . (Edward Lueders)

Teaching the Ape to Write Poetry (James Tate)

Introduction to Poetry (Billy Collins)

What is Poetry? (John Asberry)

How Poetry Comes to Me (Gary Snyder)

As For Poets (Gary Snyder)

Salvage This (Jerry Martien)

Eating Poetry (Mark Strand)

How To Eat a Poem (Eve Merriam)

Reply to the Question: "How can You Become a Poet?" (Eve Merriam)

I Stop Writing the Poem (Tess Gallagher)

For Poets (Al Young)

Poetry, A Natural Thing (Robert Duncan)

Poetry (Marianne Moore)

Evaluation of an Unwritten Poem (Wislawa Szymborska)

The Joy of Writing (Wislawa Szymborska)

A Loaf of Poetry (Naoshi Koriyama)

To The Stone-Cutters (Robinson Jeffers)

The Art of Poetry (Jorge Luis Borges)

Notes on the Art of Poetry (Dylan Thomas)

The Poet (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

A Poet! He Hath Put His Heart to School (William Wordsworth)

Misc. (Historical Poems)

The Ballade of the Incompetent Ballade-Monger (J.K. Stephen)

On the Future of Poetry (Henry Austin Dobson)

Ode to Fancy (Joseph Warton)

Ode on the Poetical Character (William Collins)

Poets on Poetry

"One function of the poet at any time is to discover by his own thought and feeling what seems . . . to be poetry at that time." [Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination vii (New York: Random House, 1951)]

A Note on Poetry
Wallace Stevens

On Becoming a Poet
Mark Strand

One Good Tern Deserves Another
Marge Piercy

From the Bread of Time
Philip Levine

How I Grew
Henri Cole

Pocketbooks and Sauerkraut
W.S. Di Piero

Marie Ponsot

Mary Jo Salter

How To Read Poetry

Reading Poetry

On Reading Poetry
Kenneth Koch

Eleanor Cook

Reading Poetry (and other things)

What Makes for Bad Poetry? (In contrast, what makes for a bad legal brief?)

Jonathan Swift's Advice to the Grub Street Verse-Writers

Obscurity in Poetry

Lucidist Manifesto & Decalogue

Poetry and Private Language

On Intellectual Obscurity in Poetry

Poetry--What Is It?

Defining Poetry

What Does Poetry Do?

Poetry: A Literary and Theoretical Perspective

Beginner's Guides to Poetry Structure

Owen Barfield

Poetry and Why We Don't Read It, Don't Know Anything About It, and Assume We Can Live Perfectly Well Without It

Joseph Brodsky, "An Immodest Proposal" [address was delivered at the Library of Congress, October 1991; from On Grief and Reason: Essays (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995)] [on-line text] [Joseph Brodsky]

Current State of Poetry

Locating Poetry as One of the Humanities

Harold Bloom, "They have the numbers; we, the heights"
[Boston Review, 1998] [on-line text]

Marjorie Perloff, "In Defense of Poetry"
[Boston Review, 2000] [on-line text]

Locating Poetry in Its History

Life Studies: American Poetry from T. S. Eliot to Allen Ginsberg
[The Academy of American Poets]

R.S. Gwynn, "A Field Guide to the Poetics of the '90s" [1995] [on-line text]

Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866), "The Four Ages of Poetry" [1820] [on-line text]

The Poetess in America
[Annie Finch, Critical Issue, Able Muse, 2002]

Books About Poetry

Max Eastman, Enjoyment of Poetry (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1921) [online text]

Francis B Gummere, The Beginnings of Poetry (New York: MacMillian Co., 1908) [online text]

Jay B Hubbell & John Owen Beaty, An Introduction to Poetry (New York: Macmillan Co., 1922) [online text]

James L. Oderdonk, History of American Verse (1610-1897) 57 (Chicago: A.C. McClurg, 1901) [online text]

Marguerite Ogden Bigelow Wilkinson, New Voices: An Introduction to Contemporary Poetry (New York: Macmillan Co., 1928) [online text]

Books About Poets

Louis Untermeyer, The New Era in American Poetry (New York: Henry Holt, 1919) [online text] [includes chapters on Edgar Lee Masters and Charles Erskine Scott Wood]